THE HIV LOTTERY
Western Cape, South Africa
One of the most controversial applications of behavioral economics to public policymaking has been Western Cape Premier Helen Zille's "Get Tested and Win" campaign, launched in 2011, which enters anyone who gets an HIV test into a drawing for cash prizes up to nearly $6,000. The program developed out of a workshop conducted by ideas42, a Harvard-affiliated organization set up to develop psychology- and economics-based strategies for developing social and economic policy. (The name comes from the answer to the meaning of life in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) The government also worked with ideas42 to develop new strategies to reduce traffic fatalities.
"Get Tested and Win" was blasted by critics, including the South African Medical Association, which called it "inappropriate and medically unethical." It probably doesn't help that Zille, the leader of South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance party, has also controversially called for HIV-positive men who knowingly have sex without condoms to be charged with murder. But Zille, who criticizes the national government for encouraging a climate of AIDS denialism, is pressing ahead with the initiative. A similar program is also being planned that will enter schoolchildren who attend afterschool programs and pass drug tests into a raffle for shopping vouchers.